UN Atomic Agency Head to Visit Iran As Pressure Ramps Up on Revival of Nuclear Deal

The head of the United Nation's atomic watchdog agency intends to visit Iran before the end of November as it still remains unclear if the country will resume negotiations to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, the Associated Press reported. International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi announced his intentions Tuesday to visit Tehran "soon" with the hopes of talking over and resolving some concerns with the country's nuclear program.

Iran's nuclear program has reportedly breached several facets of the IAEA-monitored 2015 deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The country has also ceased some other aspects of its cooperation with the IAEA, the AP reported.

Ahead of the upcoming IAEA board of governors meeting in late November, some countries are calling on the watchdog agency to denounce Iran's nuclear endeavors, including JCPOA violations. But Grossi declined to guess if the IAEA would condemn the country.

"I think it will all depend on what happens from now to the third week of November. So many things will happen," Grossi said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

U.N. Atomic Watchdog Head
The head of the United Nation’s atomic watchdog agency intends to visit Iran before the end of November as it still remains unclear if the country will resume negotiations to revive the 2015 nuclear deal. International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, left, speaks with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Monday, October 18, 2021, in the Benjamin Franklin Room at the State Department in Washington, ahead of a meeting. Mandel Ngan/Pool via AP

Grossi's visit to Tehran has not yet been scheduled but his comments came as world powers are stepping up pressure on Iran to return to talks intended to bring both Iran and the United States back into compliance with the deal.

Since former President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the nuclear deal and began a "maximum pressure" campaign on Iran by reimposing severe sanctions, Tehran has been blowing through limits on uranium enrichment and the use of advanced centrifuges. In addition, IAEA surveillance cameras at at least one sensitive nuclear site have been dismantled, destroyed or damaged.

After Grossi's last visit to Tehran in September, Iran had agreed to allow IAEA inspectors to install new memory cards in the cameras in question but the method and timing of the move have yet to be settled. At the time, Grossi called the agreement a "stopgap" measure that must be enhanced. The IAEA has said its activities have been "seriously undermined" since February by Iran's refusal to let inspectors access their monitoring equipment.

Iran's new hardline government led by President Ebrahim Raisi, which took power in August, has hinted it will return to the nuclear talks in Vienna but has balked at setting a date. In the meantime it has called for an interim meeting with the European Union and the other remaining parties to the deal in Brussels before it commits.

Last week, the United States and its closest partners stepped up pressure on Iran to return to the Vienna talks, warning that it will face greater international isolation, new economic penalties and possibly military action if it does not.

In a series of high-level diplomatic meetings, U.S., European, Israeli and Arab officials agreed on the need to make clear to Iran that its continued resistance to rejoining the talks in Vienna will not be ignored or left unpunished.

The consensus comes amid growing concerns that Tehran is not serious about returning to the negotiations. It also comes as the Biden administration, which had made rejoining the accord a priority in its first months in office, and others become increasingly pessimistic about the prospects for such negotiations even if they do resume.

Grossi at IAEA Conference
International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi announced his intentions Tuesday to visit Tehran “soon” with the hopes of talking over and resolving some concerns with the country’s nuclear program. Grossi talks on stage at the International Atomic Energy's (IAEA) General Conference about nuclear verification in Iran in Vienna, Austria, Monday, September 20, 2021. Lisa Leutner/AP Photo